Featuring America's Home Inspector: Nationally Syndicated Columnist, Barry Stone

The House Detective by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry: I find it hard to understand why home inspectors refuse to walk on concrete tile roofs. I know handymen, cable guys, chimney sweeps, and others who walk on tile roofs all the time and never break a single tile. But home inspectors routinely wimp-out on tile roof inspections, choosing to inspect from the ground, sometimes using binoculars. In my opinion, inspectors who do this are shortchanging their customers. To put it bluntly, there is no way to perform an adequate inspection of roofing tiles from the ground. To do a competent inspection, it is necessary to walk on the roof. What is your opinion on this? Brad

Dear Brad: You raise some valid issues about tile roof inspections, but clarification is needed on a few points. It is true that the best roof inspections include a walk on the roof. It is also true that roof tiles don’t break easily underfoot. Nevertheless, nearly all home inspectors refuse to walk on tile roofs, and here is the reason why:

The majority of tile roofs have one or more broken tiles. In most cases, these are not visible from the ground and are unknown to homeowners. When a home inspector walks on a tile roof that is believed to have no broken tiles and then reports that some broken tiles were observed, the inspector can then be blamed for breaking those tiles in the course of the inspection. This has actually happened to a number of inspectors and is the reason that nearly all home inspectors use other inspection methods for tile roofing.

Fortunately, it is possible, in most cases, to conduct a thorough roof inspection without walking on the tiles. On single story buildings, a competent inspector can place a ladder against the eaves at various places around the building, providing full view of all or most roof surfaces. A comprehensive evaluation of roofing tiles can then be performed from atop the ladder. With second story roofs, decks and balconies enable ladder placement against the eaves. For second story roofs that can only be inspected from the ground, a good pair of binoculars provides an adequate close-up view of the tiles in most instances.

In the minority of cases where the tiles are not viewable by these any of these methods, the inspector should report that the roof inspection was limited and that further evaluation by a roofing contractor is advised.

Dear Barry: The home we just purchased has a swimming pool that leaks badly, but we were not told about this leak before we bought the property. The repairs are estimated to be several thousand dollars. Do we have any recourse against the sellers for not telling us about this problem? Rod

Dear Rod: Whether you have legal recourse against the sellers depends upon the disclosure laws in your state. In most states, full disclosure of known defects is a requirement.

If the sellers lived on the property, they must have known the pool was leaking because the water level would have gone down continually. The sellers should be formally notified about this breach of disclosure. If they are unwilling to address the issue, you should consult an attorney for advice.